March Madness: Bracketology Based On Alumni Earnings! And The Winner Is….

Anyone who has ever participated in a March Madness pool knows just how hard it is to pick the winners of the first round correctly, let alone the entire bracket!

In fact, to correctly pick the entire bracket in the Men’s NCAA Tournament, ‘the odds of doing so are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Compare this to the odds of winning the Mega Millions lottery jackpot which is a paltry 1 in 258,890,850.‘ (Source)

But what if some other criteria was utilized to pick a winner in each game of this years version of Bracketology?

For instance, how about using the earnings power of each schools graduates?

But how would something like that work?

Simple…Instead of filling-out the bracket based on who will win each game on the hardwood, what if instead the bracket was filled-out with each rounds ‘winner’ being the school that scores the highest based on a value-added method for assessing how alumni earnings compared 10 years after they graduate.

Results are ‘normalized’ so that a lower ranked school utilizing the typical criteria used to evaluate colleges and universities, could still potentially ‘beat’ an Ivy League school based on value-added criteria.

In the study conducted by Brookings, they ‘first estimate how college alumni might perform based on a set of school and student characteristics that include average student family income, test scores of incoming students, racial makeup, the geographic location of a school, and other variables. They then compare these estimates to the actual earnings of alumni..’

Colleges and universities with higher-than-expected alumni earnings given their school and student characteristics have a higher percentile ranking. In this system, a state school that may have a lower-scoring student body in terms of incoming test scores or students from more disadvantaged backgrounds can outperform an Ivy League university if that state school produces alumni whose earnings far exceed what we would expect given school and student characteristics.

We filled out brackets on the men’s and the women’s side of the NCAA tournament using the percentile rankings for the value-added measure. If a school’s value-added ranking is higher than its competitor, it wins that round and moves on. In the case that two schools have identical percentile rankings, we look to the actual earnings of alumni as the tie-breaker…

Based on this criteria the ‘winners’ in each round of the Men’s NCAA Tournament can be viewed below, but the overall winner in this ‘tournament’ is none other than…


Michael Haltman is President of Hallmark Abstract Service in New York. He can be reached at

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