If you run across anyone who majors in something that requires a crapload of textbooks, chances are they're a walk-on. Duke's Casey Peters double majors in economics and environmental studies and policy, and averages 0.0 points a game. Kansas State freshman forward Alex "Sticks" Potuzak is a civil engineering major. ("If there was a Big 12 all-walk-on team, Sticks would be first-team, seriously," said one teammate.) And Matt Lyde-Cajuste, recruited to Syracuse not by Jim Boeheim but by the engineering department, majors in aerospace engineering.
There are a few scholarship players who resist categorization. Although five of his teammates study American ethnic studies, Washington junior forward Darnell Gant is a drama major who was cast last year in an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. (Oddly, he played himself.) Sports management, recreation, and criminal justice hold no attraction for Hampton center Milade Lola-Charles, who studies art and hopes to one day work for Disney. And God bless Tramar Sutherland of Arkansas-Little Rock, who plans to major in dentistry. (At 2.3 points per game, it's probably a better choice than the NBA draft.)
If you're the sort of person who roots for teams based on academics, you can go ahead and cheer for Princeton, Vanderbilt, and Duke. But everyone knows that those are good schools. More interesting are the unheralded institutions that defy the prevailing trends and field a roster of players with diverse interests. I found a mere two players in this year's tournament who study computer science. Both of them, Jamal Olasewere and Jason Brickman, play for Long Island University—as does sophomore forward Kenny Onyechi, who chose LIU because of its pharmacy school.
Cheer for the Blackbirds this year, or for No. 2 San Diego State, which has players majoring in history, biology, psychology, and television/film/new media, and whose senior point guard, D.J. Gay, is one of two men at the school who majors in women's studies. "I think I hesitated for about a day and then I was like, 'Screw it,' " Gay said recently. "In all the other classes, you learn numbers and [facts] and stuff like that. I felt women's studies was a class where I learned morals and life lessons."
I wanted to see if you could actually field a competitive squad of players with nonstandard majors. Turns out you can. I'd even bet these 15 players would contend for the national title.
G: Nolan Smith, Duke, 21.3 ppg, African and African-American studies
G: Jimmer Fredette, BYU, 28.5 ppg, American studies
F: Kyle Singler, Duke, 17.1 ppg, visual arts
F: Noah Dahlman, Wofford, 20.0 ppg, history
C: Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt, 12.8 ppg, economics
G: D.J. Gay, San Diego State, 11.2 ppg, women's studies
G: Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame, 18.5 ppg, American studies
F: Jamal Olasewere, LIU, 12.9 ppg, computer science
F: Cameron Moore, UAB, 14.3 ppg, philosophy
C: Zeke Marshall, Akron, 8.6 ppg, computer information systems
G: G.W. Boon, Bucknell, 8.8 ppg, biomedical engineering
G: Trian Iliadis, Old Dominion, 6.0 ppg, biochemistry
F: Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame, 15.3 ppg, one-year graduate MBA program
F: Jamelle Horne, Arizona, 6.2 ppg, creative writing
C: Dan Geriot, Richmond, 9.9 ppg, double major in political science and history
Correction, March 16, 2011: This article originally included Kent State among the 68 teams in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The count of majors by category has been corrected, and a mention of Kent State's Jordan Wilds as the tourney's lone physics major has been removed. (Return to the corrected sentence.)