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What I'm Hearing: USA TODAY Sports' Scott Gleeson spoke with one of the best NCAA Tournament projectors about which teams you can expect to see on the inside of the bracket bubble. USA TODAY

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Of all the preposterous "Where does your hometown rank?" lists that poison the Internet, WalletHub has offered the latest insipid entry into an unofficial hall of shame.

And no, this isn't just because the financial and personal wellness site released a study that called Des Moines one of the 15 worst cities in America for college basketball.

Although, really, such a patently ridiculous claim belongs in the same category as any NCAA Tournament bracket pool entry that makes its choices based on cool mascots and favorite uniform colors. (If this is you, sorry! But you won't be winning this month, either.)

How, considering the state's rabid passion for all college sports, could Des Moines rank 276th out of 289 locales listed?

And how, for that matter, could Charlotte, North Carolina, the most populous city in one of our more tradition-rich basketball states, rank 277th?

You're going to tell me that Los Angeles, which can barely muster enough passion to support one National Football League team, much less two, is third?

If you are unfortunate enough to take a closer look at that study, you'll find it little more than a regurgitation of basketball history that masquerades as a community's overall embrace of the sport. You'll also find it unnecessarily hamstrung by immediate geographic scope.

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As many of these sprawling lists do, there's a (flawed) formula of nine weighted categories that lays the foundation for debate (and outrage). This WalletHub list places an extreme emphasis on a university's on-court performance. Take a look:

  • Number of Division-I teams: 12.5 percent
  • Performance level (wins divided by games played the past three seasons): 12.5 percent
  • Number of national championships: 12.5 percent
  • Number of regular-season conference championships: 6.25 percent
  • Number of hall-of-fame head coaches: 12.5 percent
  • Number of head coaches the past 10 seasons: 6.25 percent

That's 62.5 percent of the total right there.

This methodology skews inflexibly to the sheer geography of where a university is located. So forget the extensive alumni bases for both Iowa and Iowa State that call Des Moines home. The only school Iowa's capital gets to count is Drake. Which, no offense meant to this year's feel-good Bulldogs story, but Drake has a steady history of being rather awful.

And even though just one of UCLA's 11 national championships has come in the past 43 years, nearly 20 percent of the total lets Los Angeles skate by the achievements of athletes who are over the age of 70.

So, something's already off. The other three categories get a little closer to measuring passion, but they're still perplexing.

  • Minimum season-ticket price: 12.5 percent
  • Fan engagement (Twitter followers and Facebook likes per capita): 18.75 percent
  • Stadium capacity divided by city population: 6.25 percent

Season-ticket prices can be overly skewed by economic region. For all the individual weight given to fan engagement, followers and likes alone aren't the only measure of a program's following. And again, Des Moines gets dinged because of the 7,152-seat upper bound of the Knapp Center at Drake.

For their parts, Ames (24th) and Iowa City (27th) rank highly. Cedar Falls is lingering at No. 89. The other cities in the top five — Lawrence, Kansas; Durham, N.C. (Duke); East Lansing, Michigan (Michigan State); and Chapel Hill, N.C. (North Carolina) — don't leave tons of room for quibbling.

But the fervor of Hawkeyes and Cyclones fans across the state can't help Des Moines' lowly score.  

Des Moines is hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years this week, and Wells Fargo Arena's ticket allotment sold out faster than any of the other seven comparable NCAA sites.

The impressive fan support for Iowa's impressive women's teams doesn't count for squat, either.

Furthermore, it makes little sense that North Carolina can boast the second- and fifth-best cities, and yet the same state harbors Charlotte at that No. 277 eyesore.

The Kansas City metro is one of the best college melting pots in the country, with Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri fans mingling. The site is the undisputed champion of college basketball conference tournament environments. And the home of the College Basketball Hall of Fame ranks ... 226th.

That all makes perfect sense.

Give credit to the study in this respect: It'll sure get some places talking. It got us talking. But forget missing the boat in gauging community interest that crosses geographic borders — these measurements don't even hit the ocean.

And for that big misstep, the study's legitimacy bubble has burst.

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