Hot on the heels of the mega-successful Quicken Loans March Madness billion-dollar challenge, RealtyTrac is pushing out its own smart tie-in to the remaining Sweet 16.

RealtyTrac followed the 16 teams that survived the manic first days of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, and their place of origin are diverse in skill, conference affiliation and – not surprisingly – housing markets.

Consider, they note, smaller private Dayton University in southwest Ohio, with 11,000 students and member of the Atlantic 10 conference, to the mammoth University of Florida in Gainesville, with nearly 50,000 students and member of the mighty SEC.

“As the level of college enrollment has increased over the past several years within college and university campuses across Ohio, so has the demand and need for residential housing to service these consumers,” said Michael Mahon, executive vice president at HER Realtors, covering the Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio markets.  “Areas surrounding college and university campuses throughout Ohio are seeing renewed growth and development of new housing and commercial projects, as large institutional investors are joining with college administrators, to create effective community plans that provide entertainment, residential housing, parking and security for students, administrators and educators.”

So the boffins at RealtyTrac decided to look at how the Sweet 16 stack up not in terms of basketball talent, but rather in real estate investment metrics.

RealtyTrac filled out the remaining bracket based on four key factors key to fundamentally sound real estate investing in the counties where the college towns are located.

Analysts looked at rental return, flipping profit, foreclosure discount and affordability.

Based on this methodology, the clear champion will be Michigan State University Spartans. MSU’s home county offers low median home prices — including both distressed and non-distressed sales — of $82,750, combined with relatively high fair market rents on three-bedroom homes of more than $1,000 a month gives the county a gross rent yield of nearly 15%.

In the Final Four, the Spartans’ home of Ingham County beats out Alachua County, Florida, as the home of the Florida State University Gators, owing to discounted distressed properties. Foreclosure properties sell an average of 58% below non-foreclosure properties in Ingham County compared to a 31% discount in Alachua County. And finally, Ingham county tops Knox County, Tenn., home of the Volunteers, because of better affordability. Median home prices in Ingham County are 1.90 times median household incomes compared to a ratio of 2.79 in Knox County.

“Investing in a college town rental property is always going to be a great investment opportunity, but they can be particularly hard to come by for that very reason, especially in the Fort Collins and Boulder areas that are in high demand,” said Chad Ochsner, owner/broker of RE/MAX Alliance in Denver. “When purchasing a rental property in a college town it’s important to check with the municipality regarding any restrictions they may have.”