RPI, KenPom, AP poll, two-bit blog power rankings, pfft. The only college rankings that ever matter are the ones put out by U.S. News & World Report every year. U.S. News famously ranks all the colleges in the nation every year to give certain Ivy Leaguers, private school alums and cross-state rivals bragging rights. If you're unfamiliar with the rankings, the easiest way to explain it is by showing you the 2014 top 10:
5. Stanford and University of Chicago (tie)
7. Duke, MIT and Penn (tie)
10. CalTech and Dartmouth (tie)
So, yeah. Ivys and schools dubbed "the Ivy of the [non-New England geographic area]." (As in, Stanford is the Ivy of the West and Duke is the Ivy of the South.)
I bow to brains, not brawn. So when filling out my bracket (You can download a printable NCAA bracket here), I relied solely on the U.S. News rankings. I fear that top 10 list should have come with a spoiler alert, but whatever. Read on. (Click to embiggen.)
SLAP FIGHT: Stephen F. Austin is in the dead middle of regional universities in the West ... and beat VCU, a 30th percentile national university in the second round. (Yes, U.S. News makes things difficult by separating some schools out as "regional universities" — I used percentiles within groupings when we had national vs. regional battles.)
NAILBITERS: UCLA (91st percentile, national) squeaked by Mt. St. Mary's (90th percentile, North region) in the Sweet 16. Slightly lower than the curve: Eastern Kentucky (59th percentile in the South) edged Kansas (58th percentile nationally).
MY GOD, THE CARNAGE: Stanford is ranked the No. 5 university in the nation. The University of New Mexico is ... No. 181. (Some consolation, Lobos: New Mexico State is No. 190.)
REGIONAL WINNER: Stanford, who coasted through untouched until an Elite 8 match with quite good UCLA.
OOF: Memphis is unranked by U.S. News. That's ... not good. (George Washington handled them quite easily in the second round as the No. 52 university in the nation.)
NICE TRY, CINCY: Cincinnati is a respectable No. 135 in the nation. Unfortunately, they drew Harvard first. Welp.
SO CLOSE, BIDEN: Delaware is the No. 75 university in the country. Second-round opponent Michigan State is ranked No. 73. Sorry, Blue Hens. If it's any consolation, Sparty won the honor of getting destroyed by Harvard in the Round of 32.
FRIAR POWER: Providence is the No. 2 regional college in the north. That got the Friars past a very strong North Carolina and UConn. Unfortunately, Providence landed in the power regional: Villanova is the No. 1 regional college in the north, and took it out.
JUDGMENT CALL: Harvard advanced over Villanova because being No. 2 in a giant lake is more impressive than being No. 1 in a still-impressive but smaller lake. Also, Jeremy Lin > Randy Foye.
OH: Gonzaga is the No. 4 regional college in the West. Oklahoma State is No. 142 in the nation. Welp.
WOOF: San Diego State (No. 152 in the nation) advances past aforementioned No. 190 New Mexico State. A low-scoring game, no doubt.
DOMINATION: Creighton, the top regional college in the Midwest, against unranked Louisiana-Lafayette in the second round. One of those rare 93-2 scores.
FACE-OFF FOR THE FINAL FOUR: The West Elite 8 matchup was spectacular, with No. 4 in the West Gonzaga and No. 1 in the Midwest Creighton. Is there anything Doug McDermott can't do?
PAPER TIGERS: Wichita State may be a one-seed in the actual NCAA bracket, but it is not ranked at all by U.S. News.
CAKEWALK: Cal Poly (a state school, by the way) is the No. 9 regional college in the west. It faced unranked Texas Southern in the first round, unranked Wichita State in the second round and Kentucky (50th percentile nationally) in the third round. The Mustangs just waltzed right into the Sweet 16. Unfortunately, that's when they ran into strong Xavier (No. 4 in the midwest).
BAD LUCK: Mercer (No. 8 in the south) could have made a deep run if Duke (No. 7 in the nation) wasn't waiting in the second round.
TRIPLE-OVERTIME: Xavier (97th percentile, midwest) and Duke (97th percentile, national) were ridiculously close, but I gave the nod to the bigger fish again.
Harvard vs. Stanford in the de facto championship game. Barack Obama subtweets a dig at Condoleezza Rice. Dozens of thinkpieces on the intellectual battle for the future of America between Silicon Valley and academia precede the match. Harvard wins. A VC colony secedes; Harvard Law professors write amicus briefs as a show of good faith.
Creighton meets Duke in the ultimate small school-big school battle of ideas. During an impromptu press conference Quiz Bowl match, Coach K fails to correctly recite the names of all of the Plumlee brothers in order of decreasing age. (He mixed up Miles and Mason. Out of sight, out of mind.) Creighton coach Greg McDermott names all of the Creighton McDermotts (himself and Doug) to win. Marshall Plumlee defects, the Devils never recover.
Harvard, remembering their win over Villanova and also that they are Harvard, wins the championship game. Tommy Amaker is eventually elected U.S. senator. He plays "One Shining Moment" during his victory speech.