April 02, 2010

NCAA Basketball Nations

March Madness is upon us and the Floatingsheep collective has been torn asunder by conflicting team loyalties. Or, to be completely honest, by outright basketball apathy and Taylor's rabid fandom.

In any case, we thought it would be enlightening (or just plain fun) to compare the geography of basketball fandom around the country. Is there truly a Big Blue Nation out there and if so, what does it look like?

Inspiring this question was a map that comes from the Atlas of Kentucky (reproduced here with permission) that shows the distribution of men's basketball season ticket holders for the University of Kentucky (located in Fayette County) and the University of Louisville (located in Jefferson County). The differences between these patterns are quite striking with UK season ticket holders located throughout the commonwealth while Louisville fans are predominantly located in Louisville and the immediately surrounding areas.

UK and U of L Season Ticket Holders

We took Floatingsheep's collective wisdom about the teams most likely to make it to the final eight (no comment on how this compares to reality) and searched for the following eight keyword combinations within Google Maps at points within the United States. No doubt, fans of the underdog Butler Bulldogs may feel slighted by these choices, but who really predicted that they'd have made it this far? As for the Duke Blue Devils? We're still a little bitter over this whole thing (and this part, too).
  • Kansas AND Jayhawks AND basketball
  • "Kansas State" AND Wildcats AND basketball
  • Kentucky AND Wildcats AND basketball
  • "Michigan State" AND Spartans AND basketball
  • "Ohio State" AND Buckeyes AND basketball
  • Syracuse AND Orange AND basketball
  • Villanova AND Wildcats AND basketball
  • "West Virginia" AND Mountaineers AND basketball
Placemarks needed to contain the university's name, its mascot and the term basketball in order to be recorded. Each point in the U.S. was then assigned which ever team's search result produced the most hits and is displayed in the map below. (We zoomed into the central to eastern portion of the U.S. since that is where all of the teams are headquartered.)

NCAA Basketball Nations
The results are actually quite striking. Michigan State's and Ohio State's nations are clearly headquartered within their states, although Michigan State seems to enjoy greater popularity throughout the Midwest. Kentucky's nation is centered within the Commonwealth and spreads into the south. Likewise, West Virginia's fan base seems to stretch along the Appalachian Mountains and Villanova's region is centered directly on the school.

The most far reaching fan base is that of the Syracuse Orange, although we suspect that since its mascot is also a color, the map may overstate extent of their popularity. That being said, the concentration of orange dots in New England makes perfect sense.

The most interesting comparison, however, is between Kansas State Wildcats and the University of Kansas, a contest clearly dominated by Kansas State, with the exception of the area immediately surrounding the KU campus in Lawrence. Hopefully this doesn't foretell another round of Bloody Kansas, but with nationalism it's always hard to tell. And aren't basketball allegiances the closest thing to ethnic identities, anyway?


  1. Hrm... UNC was not considered? I understand they aren't in the tournament this year but I'd be willing to bet that they have a pretty wide fanbase. I'm totally cool with you leaving Duke out though ;) Also, I've heard that Ohio State has a great following in Arizona likely due to the Fiesta bowl appearances. It might be worth looking into.

    Anyway, very interesting map! Kansas St. is definitely a surprise! I've loved this type of stuff ever since I saw a regional distribution of the common word for pop/soda/other. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi, you always have intrguing graphics and correlations to offer. I just mentioned your blog in my recent post Blogs and Web Sites you may want to follow. For your own investigative work you may also want to check out my Statistical Reference List with links to hundreds of thousands of statistics, indicators, time lines etc.

  3. Your map based infographics are very informative as well as eye-catching. Go MSU!



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