Bracketology Just Got More Complicated

Glad I'm not the sucker in charge of setting this thing up every year. Then again, with Jeff Hathaway on the way out, they *do* need someone...

Earlier today, NCAA President Mark Emmert went on Scott Van Pelt's radio program and announced that Academic Progress Rate (APR)* will now be a factor in determining eligibility for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.  According to Emmert, any school with an APR lower than 930 (out of 1000 possible points) would be prohibited from participating in the NCAA Tournament. 

In case you were wondering, 930 is five (5) points higher than the point where the NCAA starts assessing penalties.  For example, UConn was penalized with the loss of two scholarships for this upcoming season due to their low APR rate.  APR is a rolling four-year measurement of progress, so the new provision isn't expected to kick in until the 2014-15 season at the earliest and penalties would not likely be assessed until the 2015-16 season, according to Bylaw Blog.

Three things to look at immediately with this announcement:

  1. The schools that would have failed to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Tournament under this rule.  Props to Bylaw Blog for being able to quickly pull up the information required.  I won't provide the whole list (it's on BB's Twitter), but there would have been 10 teams ineligible, including our Big East friends Syracuse and the aforementioned UConn, who, if you'll remember, won the 2011 NCAA Tournament but staggered home with an APR of 893.
  2. Marquette's APR.  It appears that both basketball programs would be more than safe from any penalties.  The NCAA announced new APRs in May, scoring men's basketball at 980 and women's basketball at 985.
  3. The effect on small Division 1 basketball schools.  Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples pointed out that Alcorn State (4-24, 4-14) would have been forced to represent the SWAC in the NCAA tournament, as they would have been the only SWAC basketball team with an APR over 930.  Smaller schools lack the resources to fund the kind of academic support system to keep players eligible to play, thereby hindering their APR.

Obviously, with the slight point differential between the Tournament standard and the penalization standard, we could be looking at teams *coughUWMcough* who would go unpenalized by the NCAA in terms of practice time and scholarships, but would be prohibited from play in the Tournament.  Over the next few months, we'll have to keep our eyes on this as the details of implementation are hashed out.

* Rubie sez: In case you're like me -- read: not really sure what this APR business is all about, or why it's used, or why I should care about it -- here's the briefest explanation I can come up with, based on fifteen minutes of Internet research: APR is a (somewhat crude) tool used to assist in the determination of how well universities are graduating their student-athletes. APR is calculated thusly: each student-athlete can earn two possible points per semester -- one for staying in school, and one for remaining eligible to compete.  You add up those points at the end of the year, then divide by the number of possible points, multiply by 1000, and boom: there's your APR.

Now, as to why it matters: someone somewhere figured out than an APR of 925 roughly correlates to a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 50%, which is the bare minimum that the NCAA is willing to accept from its member institutions. If you're below that APR threshold, Mama ain't happy, and if Mama ain't happy, you can get nasty letters and have your schollies dinged.

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