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Science Shows Hierarchy in College Basketball


College basketball's March Madness is about to engulf fans across the country. At Duke University, an engineering professor says the usual suspects will dominate the NCAA Tournament. And Adrian Bejan says that can be explained by his theory of Constructal Law. He says great basketball players tend to wind up at the same colleges and universities in the same way water flows to a single point through many small streams that join bigger and fewer river channels.

Bejan says once established, that hierarchical structure is hard to change.

"Once a college is one of these, you know, big channels, this college actually attracts the best players and attracts the best coaches. The other ones who would like to break into the elite, meaning colleges or players or coaches and so forth have to go to great lengths to recruit, to invest, to build, to grow, to spread the news."

Bejan says his theory can not predict a victor of tomorrow night's game between Duke and Carolina. The winner ends the regular season in first place and gets a number one seed in next week's ACC Tournament.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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