Here's What Would Happen If You Based Your March Madness Bracket on Tuition

March 17th 2016

Aron Macarow

March Madness is here again, with more than 40 million Americans filling out brackets before the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament's properly commences on Thursday.

While some scour ESPN for team stats and others look to any number of internet bracket cheat sheets, we wanted to see what a bracket would like if the results were solely based on college tuition.

ATTN: dug into the total cost of attendance — including in-state tuition, fees, and room and board as reported by CNN Money — at all 68 colleges and universities that made cut. (Only one school was not represented in CNN Money's cost calculator, California State University, Fresno; for that school we used overall tuition estimates found at

Here's what it looks like when you fill out a March Madness bracket based on tuition

March Madness bracket based on college tuition affordability.

This year, the first seed in the South region as well as the odds-on favorite to win the NCAA championship is the University of Kansas, which has been given the highest likelihood of victory by the number crunching team at at 19 percent.

Jayhawks Basketball Fans

Although Kansas may be the consensus pick to win the series based on current statistics, the school comes in 24th in terms of overall cost, charging just under $24,000 per-year.

Here's how the other top seeds fare.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (East Division), University of Virginia (Midwest Division), and University of Oregon (West Division) were all awarded top seeds in their brackets by the NCAA selection committee. Their tuition rankings, however, shift their positions greatly. Reordered by total attendance cost, North Carolina moves down to 25th ($23,928), Virginia drops to 42nd ($29,303), and Oregon shifts to 35th ($26,509).

Your new top 4 seeds based on tuition.

The most affordable schools in this year's March Madness tournament are California State University Fresno at $18,665, Southern University and A&M College at $18,470, University of Arkansas at Little Rock at $18,251, and Weber State University — winning this year's tuition-based bracket with a total attendance cost of $17,812. A student paying full "sticker price" at Weber State would graduate having paid over $50,000 less than the most expensive school competing in 2016 March Madness.

While Weber State hasn't made it to the third round since 1969, the relatively inexpensive school did recently produce NBA All-Star Damian Lillard.

And the new bottom 4 seeds based on tuition.

Meanwhile, the new bottom four seeds based on tuition would be University of Notre Dame, University of Southern California, Duke University, and Yale University. All come in at over $65,000 per year for in-state students. Duke University, with a reported overall price tag of $68,021, earns the distinction of most expensive school in this year's competition.

Duke University also has the highest paid coach in the March Madness tournament, Mike Krzyzewski, whose salary was last reported to be over $9.5 million in 2015. He's not the only highly paid coach, though.

Michigan State University pays their coach, Tom Izzo, a salary of almost $4 million.

Who pays for those salaries?

According to one report, public universities with NCAA Division I sports spend as much as six times more per athlete for staff, facilities, and other team needs than they do on educational expenses for students.

Meanwhile, the cost of tuition has skyrocketed; the highest tuition school participating in March Madness in 2014, George Washington University, charged $20,000 less than this year's most expensive school. In addition, spending on athletics outpaces spending on academics. According to TIME, student spending grew only 23 percent from 2005 to 2010 compared to a 61 percent spike over the same period in per athlete spending for certain programs.

"College sports is big business, and it’s a very poorly run big business," Ohio University business professor David Ridpath said to The Washington Post. "The current model does not work. Some day it will implode."

Others feel differently, however, suggesting that college sports are a boon to schools, giving back far more to each campus than they eat up in student fees and other school revenue. Former Louisiana State University Chancellor Michael Martin pointed to increases in enrollment, donations, and name-recognition for the university, among other factors, from the publicity of national games. Defending sports spending in a Washington Post op-ed, Martin states that big athletics are "exposure that LSU could never have afforded to buy — especially in this era of budget cuts and diminished state support for public higher education."