The NCAA tournament may be one of the few instances where hindsight is never 20-20. Especially this year, with improbable upsets left and right, college basketball fans are scratching their heads after Middle Tennessee State’s upset over Michigan State and Stephen F. Austin’s win over West Virginia.
Perhaps more than any other March Madness in memory, the 2016 tournament has launched these and other little-known schools into the national spotlight. So without further ado, let’s learn a little about the schools behind this year’s bracket-busting teams.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Undergraduate enrollment: 13,952
Average SAT: 1615
Average ACT: 23
Tuition: 28,632 (out-of-state), 9,840 (in-state)
The Rainbow Warriors knocked off the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears, who were favored by nearly 80% of fans in ESPN’s national bracket challenge. Though Hawaii won their conference and boasted an impressive record of 28 wins and six losses heading into the tournament, Cal had played a much tougher schedule and were led by two superb freshmen. However, Hawaii contained Cal’s offense with gusto and advanced to the second round where they fell to Maryland.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa is one of three universities and seven community colleges in the UH system. Located on the island of Oahu, the university sits in the mouth of beautiful Manoa Valley, just three miles from downtown Honolulu, and with an average low of only 65 to 75 degrees, it has perhaps the best weather for any U.S. university.
Wichita State University
Undergraduate enrollment: 11,979
Average SAT: 1080 (without writing score)
Average ACT: 23
The Wichita State Shockers are no strangers to the big dance. In their 12 tournament appearances, they’ve gone as far as the Final Four twice. This year, however, not many people expected the Shockers to make it past their first round game against a very deep Arizona team, but the Shocker defense proved too much for the Wildcats.
Despite its name, Wichita State holds classes across four satellite locations, including a campus in downtown Wichita and campuses in the surrounding suburbs. In 2013, WSU was the top industry-funded school in aerospace research and development, and its aerospace program regularly collaborates with many leading aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing and Airbus.
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,453
Average SAT: 2265
Average ACT: 33
While academics may overshadow athletics at Yale, this year’s men’s basketball squad was no cupcake team for its opponents. Despite an anemic schedule in an easy conference, Yale played like a perennial tournament contender in their win over an actual perennial tournament contender, Baylor.
Unlike their basketball team, the university needs no introduction. Yale was founded 74 years before the birth of the U.S. and remains one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. It’s the most expensive of this year’s bracket-busting schools and also the only private school. Notable alumni include former presidents Howard Taft, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush; actress Meryl Streep; and economist Paul Krugman.
University of Northern Iowa
Undergraduate enrollment: 11,981
Average SAT: 1035 (without writing score)
Average ACT: 23
Tuition: $7,817 (resident), $18,005 (non-resident)
While Middle Tennessee State had the most surprising upset of the 2016 tournament so far, the University of Northern Iowa had the most dramatic. With the game tied against heavily favored Texas at 72-72 and with just seconds on the clock, redshirt junior Paul Jesperson hit a half-court basket as time expired to send the Panthers to the round of 32. However, the Panthers’ Cinderella story ended abruptly after a crushing late-game defeat to Texas A&M, sending the squad back to campus in Cedar Falls.
Not surprisingly, 92% of UNI students hail from Iowa. However, students have ample opportunity to study abroad in more than 80 countries through the programs offered by its study abroad center. UNI is also the publisher of the North American Review, a literary magazine distinguished by a wealth of famed contributors, including Henry James, Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Stephen F. Austin State University
Undergraduate enrollment: 11,024
Average SAT: 1468
Average ACT: 21
Tuition: $8,892 (in-state), $19,752 (out-of-state)
Only 9% of participants in ESPN’s national bracket challenge picked Stephen F. Austin, a 14 seed, to take down West Virginia, a three-seed. Stephen F. star Thomas Walkup led his fellow Lumberjacks through the Mountaineers’ famed press to victory, giving the nation’s best offensive rebounding team an early exit.
Stephen F. Austin is located in Nacogdoches, a town in east Texas, not the capital Austin, Texas as is commonly assumed. Both the university and Texas’ capital share the namesake of Stephen Fuller Austin, the father of Texas who helped bring American families to the Mexican territory that would later become Texas. Stephen F. has one of the two forestry schools in Texas and its connection to the forestry industry is reflected in its choice of mascot, the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Undergraduate enrollment: 9,384
Average SAT: 880 (without writing score)
Average ACT: 22
Tuition: $8,165 (in-state), $19,235 (out-of-state)
The Little Rock Trojans faced a tough test against the Purdue Boilermakers in the first round, but Josh Hagins stepped up to the challenge. The senior guard scored 30 points and then rounded out his stat sheet with five rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Like every other team on our list, however, Little Rock’s time in the limelight ended in their next game, losing to Iowa State.
The Little Rock campus of the University of Arkansas System may be overshadowed by the more famous University of Arkansas located in Fayetteville, but it offers the only metropolitan university in the state. Students enjoy programs linked with the needs of the local community and benefit from the university’s proximity to the state capitol and ties with local leaders in government and business. The university also houses the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences, a research facility that aims to bring technological innovation into society.
Middle Tennessee State University
Undergraduate enrollment: 20,262
Average SAT: 1025 (without writing score)
Average ACT: 19-25 (middle 50%)
Tuition: $7,370 (in-state), $24,434 (out-of-state)
Tom Izzo’s Spartans rarely disappoint during March Madness, and no one had any reason to expect a first round exit against Middle Tennessee. Even though Michigan State was one of the deepest teams this season, with a Player of the Year candidate in its roster, they could never take the lead against MTSU. The Blue Raiders tore through the Spartans’ defense and shot a deadly 55.9% from the field, giving them their best win in school history.
True to its name, Middle Tennessee State sits in Murfreesboro, a city smack in the center of Tennessee. MTSU was founded in 1911 and now offers more than 80 degree programs that range from aerospace to commercial songwriting. While the university hosts 340 student organizations, including fraternities, its largest organization is the Band of Blue, the school’s marching band.
What has been your favorite upset of the tournament so far? Let us know in the comments below.