NCAA tournament picks from the National Institutes of Health, 2012

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Awaiting the grades on its renewal application, here’s the second annual prediction of how the NCAA men’s tournament promises to unfold, based on total NIH funding awarded to each college in 2011. Last year this prediction method got almost nothing right except that #11 Marquette would win two games, but second time’s the charm.

Excerpt displayed; click the image or click here for the full bracket.


  • Methodology is similar to that used last year. This year it was easier because the NIH now includes all awards for a given fiscal year in a sortable table embedded in its Awards by Location and Organization page. I sorted by “Summary by Organization” and used the value listed for each school [and its associated medical center / medical school, public health school, if those are located in the same city as the undergraduate institution]. Next to each team is the amount of NIH funding [in thousands].
  • As in 2011, the communistic organization of Texas’s research institutions hurts the standing of UT[-Austin], and hurts Baylor even more. Over $200 million to Baylor Medical School in Houston, and another $11M to Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, but the youngsters up in Waco end up going out in the first round to the Jackrabbits from Brookings.
  • The Final Four looks like it’ll be 75% different from last year’s. Two of 2011’s NIH semifinalists aren’t even in the tournament this year, and one [Vanderbilt] is going to lose in an epic 12-5 upset.
  • That 12 seed would win in my bracket easily if half of the funding attributed to Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center were attibuted to the local university instead. But based strictly on the numbers next to “Harvard University”, “Harvard University Medical School”, and “Harvard University Sch of Public Hlth”, they have to sweat out wins against both the Commodores and the Badgers before breezing through the rest of the East regional.
  • In 2011 these figures predicted that VCU would lose the play-in game to USC despite having over $82 million of NIH funding. VCU ended up in the Final Four, so that bodes well for South Florida.
  • Last year there were a couple upstarts in the Sweet Sixteen, with Marquette and BYU making it despite less than $4 million. This year the organizers spaced out the talent better, and only Kansas State [$9.2 million] makes it that far with less than $30M.
  • Four of last year’s last-place finishers return to once again be humbled. UNC-Asheville, Belmont, and Xavier bring the same $0 they brought last year, but Gonzaga now has a nonzero tally thanks to Dr. Jennifer Shepherd‘s research on anaerobic energy metabolism in Rhodospirillum rubrum.

NCAA tournament picks from the National Institutes of Heath

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Straight from the study section, inspired by Chad Orzel, here’s how the NCAA men’s tournament promises to unfold, based on total NIH funding awarded to each college in 2010. We can’t assume that the school with more governmentally supported biomedical research will always win, but that’s probably the best prediction method now available.

The NIH bracket picks seem more astute than the physics-rankings bracket. We could have a Princeton – Penn State – Illinois – UCSB Final Four, but I’m putting my money on Washington – Michigan – Pitt – Vanderbilt.

Excerpt displayed; click the image or click here for the full bracket. Click here for pdf.


  • This is entirely based on the 2010 “Domestic Higher Education” spreadsheet available from the NIH here [downloadable .xls file]. I sorted it by the name of the institution [column A], tried to find any instances of an institution being listed under multiple names, and for each institution, added up the total dollars awarded [column G]. Next to each team is the amount of NIH funding [in thousands].
  • For a school that is part of a large university system, I didn’t include all the funding for its other campuses, unless they’re in the same city as the school itself. This leads to UT-San Antonio getting credit for the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Arkansas-Little Rock getting credit for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  • This rule hurt universities whose medical school or health science center is not in the same place as the main campus, particularly Tennessee, Texas [Austin], Kansas, Penn State and UConn. Although Kansas would still lose the 1-16 game if we include the Medical Center in Kansas City.


  • UNLV only got a million dollars from the NIH this year? Half as much as the Oakland Golden Grizzlies? UNLV is a huge research university. What are they doing over there?
  • Yes, Villanova were awarded no NIH funding last year. $0, less than Earlham College or Bloomsburg. They were on the 2009 spreadsheet, thanks to Dr. Jennifer Palenchar‘s work on trypanosome RNA synthesis.
  • Yes, that’s exactly $8,000 for Indiana State. And it’s not to set up a website or something, it’s to Dr. Allan Albig for “Mechanisms by which MAGP-2 promotes angiogenesis”. A small carryover from the $153,000 he got in 2009.
  • The least-funded school in the NIH Sweet Sixteen is Marquette, barely beating out BYU.
  • Tough result for the ACC, with Duke and UNC losing to juggernauts in the first weekend.
  • The overall champion’s performance is especially impressive since it doesn’t include the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.