BYU would be the hands-down favorite to win the NCAA basketball championship in a world where student-athlete graduation rates count as much as wins on the hardwood.
That's the conclusion reached by Draper-based DegreeSearch.org, which combines the most recent available graduation rate and six-year winning percentage for every team in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament to determine each school's "Student Athlete Score." The Cougars finished with a Student Athlete Score of 178, the composite result of a perfect graduation rate and 78-percent win percentage over the past six seasons.
"In the fall we did a 'Brains versus Wins' piece very similar to this for football," said Chandler Horsley, founder and CEO of DegreeSearch.org's parent company, Lead Media Partners. "That spread and was really well received, so we decided to do it with the basketball."
Utah State achieved the second-highest Student Athlete Score at 177, but doesn't qualify for DegreeSearch.org's hypothetical Final Four after losing to BYU in the Elite Eight. In addition to BYU, the other three teams qualifying for the Final Four are Duke (Student Athlete Score: 175), Marquette (167) and Notre Dame (168).
BYU and USU are two of only five schools with 100-percent graduation rates (the others are Wofford, Notre Dame and Marquette). On the opposite end of the spectrum, Arizona and Georgia graduate 11 percent and 18 percent of their student-athletes, respectively.
Horsley and several other Lead Media Partners employees are BYU graduates, but creative director Joseph LeBaron promises that the results weren't clouded by school spirit.
"We certainly didn't create the info-graphic to try and prove that BYU was awesome," LeBaron said. "But having them win the (championship) was a source of pride for me as a BYU alum."