NCAA Physics Tournament

It’s been a long time since the last NRC rankings of physics departments were published, and it seems like the new rankings have been “two months away” ever since I started looking at graduate schools.  Maybe the NRC should use the NCAA Basketball Tournament to help settle some discrepancies in rankings.

With this in mind, I filled out a bracket based on the rankings of their physics departments.  You should be able to see my full bracket here.  (In the case of schools where I didn’t know about either department, I took the higher seed.)

Things to look for:

  • Good Second Round Matchups: Top-30 schools meet in the second round as rising Michigan State takes on the juggernaut of Maryland.  Maryland prevails on its way to an Elite Eight berth.  Cornell, one of the best departments in the tournament, gets a tough test in the second round, but is able to hold off Wisconsin.  Other potential upsets lurk in Minnesota-Pittsburgh and Texas A&M-Purdue, but the better-ranked Big Ten departments prevail.
  • Seeding Issues: Ohio State, perceived to be a Top-25 department on the rise, nevertheless gets an extremely tough draw in the first round, facing powerhouse UC-Santa Barbara.  The South region is once again weak, as Notre Dame, ranked outside the Top 50, faces little resistance in making the Elite Eight.  The East region is stacked, with Cornell besting a strong field that includes Wisconsin, Washington, and Texas.
  • Final Four: UC-Santa Barbara outlasts Maryland and their bevy of national lab affiliations to make it to the Final Four. They face my Minnesota department, which faced no real tests in its region, using its strong theoretical presence to carry the maturing experimental side, which could be dangerous in future tournaments.  Cornell survives the Region of Death, using its Ivy League clout to take out 3 Top-25 departments on its way.  Overall favorite UC-Berkeley makes quick work of Duke, Purdue, and Notre Dame.
  • Champion: UCSB makes its run all the way to the championship round before running into big brother Berkeley.  Both departments battle early furlough trouble, and Joe Polchinski leads a High Energy attack for UCSB, pulling the string on several jump shots, keeping the contest close.  However, Berkeley has a legendary coach in J.D. Jackson, and is just too big and too balanced a department for UCSB to handle.  Berkeley prevails by a score of 137 to 3.14159265.
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