Following up our intensive analysis of college football rankings, today we’ll take a look at college basketball rankings using our Google-method of ranking.
One of the purposes of this method is to encourage people not to take rankings too seriously. But in doing this, we can also sometimes reveal interesting things about the structure of higher education.
As with the football rankings, the first thing to remember is that when people talk about college basketball in the U.S. they really mean university basketball. So we might be tempted to search in Google for the phrase university basketball and see what institutions come out on top. But as we saw with football, the SERPs that we get from this query have almost nothing to do with colleges and universities: they’re all commercial junk from .com’s, not .edu’s.
We’ll get something more interesting—more interesting to chew on—if we restrict our search to .edu domains. If we do that, this is the ranking we get:
- Bradley University Athletics
- Cornell University Basketball, 1957-1985
- Lawrence University Basketball
- Faulkner University Basketball
- Villanova University Basketball Ticket Lottery
- Bluffton University Basketball Day for November 2008
- Montclair State University Basketball Camp for Girls (pdf)
- Maryville University Basketball
- Purdue University Archives
- American University Basketball News
Amusingly, a number of the top-ranking pages in this phrase-based search are not actually pages for the teams: Cornell’s is a page of basketball films from the university archives; Villanova’s is a page on how to get tickets; Bluffton’s is a page about a campus holiday from a year ago; and Montclair State’s is a page about a summer camp. Is “university basketball” really part of the educational life of these institutions and all the associated websites, offices, and prgrams that go along with that educatonal life? It doesn’t look like it.
But perhaps the phrase-based search for “university basketball” expects too much. If we loosen it and search just for the separate words university and basketball on all .edu domains, we get something that looks a bit more focused:
- University of Chicago Men’s Basketball
- Lawrence University Men’s Basketball
- Fontbonne University Men’s Basketball
- Franciscan University of Steubenville Men’s Basketball
- Holy Family University Men’s Basketball
- Taylor University Men’s Basketball
- Oglethorpe University Men’s Basketball
- University at Buffalo Men’s Basketball
- Transylvania University Men’s Basketball
- Nebraska Wesleyan University Men’s Basketball
Here we do get the websites of teams, and we see why the phrase-based search didn’t turn out quite as expected: the top-ranking team pages are all self-identified as men’s basketball. Not a single women’s team appears in the Google-ranked top-ten. That’s not because of Google: it’s because of how the universities themselves structure and link their websites, and how other people link to them. Google’s ranking just reflects that structure and that pattern of linking.
It’s also revealing that none of the “big names” in national college basketball really appear in these rankings. The reason for that is clear also: they are so commercialized that their university connections are virtually irrelevant.