My prognosticator side detests this Final Four. VCU and Butler exited early on my bracket, Kentucky and Connecticut in the regional semifinals.
Ditto for 2006 when George Mason intruded. I had the Patriots losing to Michigan State in the first round.
It's unfathomable, unpredictable and, with nary a No. 1 or 2 seed, unprecedented. Most appealing, it's as diverse as Greenwich Village.
While VCU, Kentucky and UConn are large public schools, Butler is a small (4,600 enrolled) private. Spoiled by national-championship tradition, Wildcats and Huskies fans expect to be here; Rams and Bulldogs faithful fantasize about it.
Yes, VCU and Butler produced first-round NBA draft choices last year in Larry Sanders and Gordon Hayward, respectively. But Kentucky had a record five, breaking by one a mark set by Duke in 1999 and matched by North Carolina in 2005 and UConn in 2006.
Now consider the schools' basketball expenses and revenue, as reported to the U.S. Department of Education.
During the 2009-10 academic year, VCU spent $2.324 million on hoops, Butler $2.822 million. UConn tripled VCU at $6.940 million, with Kentucky goosing the ante to $11.573 million.
Not to disparage anyone's priorities. VCU and Butler's expenditures matched their revenue — if only Congress were as responsible. Meanwhile, UConn and Kentucky cleared serious profit with revenue of $7.745 million and $16.781 million, respectively.
"You're comparing two different things," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "You're comparing budgets and then you're comparing teams that are on the court. Only five guys play in basketball at a time. You may have 13 McDonald's All-Americans, but you can only play five at once. As deep as you are and everything else, you still have to play and be good with those five, and they have to play as a team.
"I think that's something that VCU, Butler, teams that have made these runs, they really understand that. They're trying to better their programs in a lot of ways, we're all trying to maximize our resources that are available, and hopefully continue to grow in that area. …
"We're not where we are because of dollars spent on practice facilities and those type of things. We're where we are because we have unbelievable people. People are greater resources than any amount of dollars."
Butler lost to Duke — basketball expenses of $12.286 million — in last season's championship game and is the first program since UNLV in 1990 and '91 from outside the power conferences to reach consecutive Final Fours. But Jerry Tarkanian's Runnin' Rebels were anything but underdogs, and the same applies to Cincinnati of the Missouri Valley in 1961 and '62 and San Francisco of the West Coast Conference in 1955 and '56 with Bill Russell.
So what Butler has attained is truly unrivaled.
"It shows how the mid-majors have come along in recent years," VCU guard Bradford Burgess said Thursday of Saturday's Rams-Bulldogs semifinal here at Reliant Stadium. "It shows that top recruits don't have to go to the big-name programs to make a name for themselves."
Some suggest that Butler and VCU taint college basketball's one-and-done postseason and curb interest in the Final Four. Please.
Dating to last year, the Bulldogs' last eight NCAA tournament wins have been by a combined 25 points. That speaks to astonishing composure and sage coaching.
The Rams needed five victories in 12 days to reach Houston, and four were one-sided. That speaks to undeniable talent and supreme confidence.
In short, VCU and Butler earned their ways here.
Contrast this tournament and Final Four to college football's Bowl Championship Series, which annually denies a Boise State or Texas Christian a title shot. Southeastern Conference teams have won five consecutive national championships, a numbing streak that basketball has witnessed just once, when the Pacific 10's UCLA won seven straight NCAA tournaments from 1967-73.
But during their dynasty, the Bruins encountered outsiders such as Jacksonville and Dayton in the title contest.
Since 1992's creation of the Bowl Alliance, which morphed into the BCS, no interloper has reached the championship game. Butler did last basketball season, and either Butler or VCU will compete for the title Monday night.
Annual occurrence? No.
More to come? Absolutely.
So deal with it. Better yet, embrace it, tattered bracket notwithstanding.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
VCU, Butler bring welcome diversity to basketball's big stage