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What’s the difference between Bradley and Butler?

Monday night, the world watched as Butler fell to UConn 53-41 in the National Championship.

The game was forgettable, but the accomplishment was not.

The Bulldogs finished a remarkable two-year run that saw them play in the National Championship twice. The only other schools to do that in the modern era are Florida, Duke, Kentucky and Michigan.

Butler, with an enrollment of 4,400, is often compared to Bradley.

Both are private schools located in a large Midwestern city. Both compete in mid-major leagues and have limited resources. Even the campuses are similar.

But when it comes to basketball, the similarities end.

Since 2000, it has been to the NCAA Tournament eight times. In that period Butler has been to four Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights, two Final Fours and two National Championship games.

Bradley has been to the NCAA Tournament once in that time, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006.

So the question must be asked. Why doesn’t the Bradley basketball program have the same success as Butler?

The answer is it can.

Butler’s success didn’t happen overnight. The foundation was built over the course of two decades. But the recipe for success isn’t rocket science.

Butler recruits student-athletes who may not be the most talented but will always put the team ahead of individual accomplishments. They dedicate themselves to defense and playing hard for 40 minutes.

Butler rarely has as much talent as its opponents, but they play as a team. It is an absolute model of what a basketball program ought to be. The way the Bulldogs play, the way the coaches and players handle themselves and the humility and the grace with which they handle the good times and the bad are all admirable and have led to success.

These are all things Bradley should strive to do.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The program has a lot going for it, things a powerhouse like Butler doesn’t even enjoy.

Bradley has top-flight facilities. Not many mid-majors have something like the Renaissance Coliseum with all its bells and whistles and state-of-the-art equipment. Butler practices in a gym connected to Hinkle Fieldhouse that makes my high school’s auxiliary gym look like luxury.

Bradley also plays in one of the premiere mid-major leagues in the country. The Missouri Valley Conference is often ranked as a top ten conference in RPI.

But most importantly, Bradley has an extremely passionate fan base. When the Braves are good, Carver Arena is packed to the rafters each and every night. Even with all of Butler’s success, the program struggles to reach an average attendance of 7,000.

With new coach Geno Ford in the fold, Bradley can take the steps to becoming a program in the same breath as Butler.

Ford is energetic and extremely likeable. His philosophies on how to play the game are in line with those that lead to success. Ford was a dynamite hire and will lead the Bradley basketball program to new heights.

But in the meantime, Ford should look no further than Butler on how to build an elite mid-major program. 

Alex Ross is a sophomore sports communication major from Fishers, Ind. He is the Scout assistant sports editor.
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