Are there two better examples of mid-major success in college hoops than Gonzaga and Butler?
The Bulldogs and the Bulldogs have set the standard of how good teams from small schools can do year-in and year-out.
Sure, Creighton could be considered as another top mid-major, but the teams coached by Mark Few and Brad Stevens are the gold standard.
But, which program is the more successful of the two?
It's fantastic that, this weekend, we get to see Gonzaga and Butler square off (Sat. Jan 19, 9 pm EST).
Don't you think this game should be scheduled every season? Me too!
But to determine which program is more successful, we will need to look at the two programs over a longer period of time.
If we step back and look at them since 2000, that allows for a better comparison, and it covers the start of the Mark Few era until the present.
Here are four factors to help us sort out which is the more successful mid-major: Gonzaga or Butler?
Over the last 14 years, both of these programs have been wildly successful.
Butler has gone 332-119 (73.6 winning percentage) and Gonzaga has put up a 374-92 (80.4 winning percentage) record.
So, this one is straightforward and obvious.
Score one for the school in Spokane, Washington.
Few teams of any size have been as dominant in their respective conferences as Butler and Gonzaga.
Butler has won nine (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) of the last 13 Horizon League championships.
Currently, Butler, in their opening year in the conference, is tied for first place with Charlotte and Xavier in the Atlantic 10.
In Mark Few's first 13 seasons as the Zags head coach, Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference championship 11 consecutive seasons (2000-2011). Holy Cow! Can you say "dominance?"
In the other two seasons ('99-00 and '11-12), they recorded 26 overall wins and placed second in conference play.
Another plus for Gonzaga!
One of the most important symbols of college basketball success is postseason appearances, especially for the premiere collegiate competition, the NCAA Tournament.
Since the 1999-2000 season, Butler has made appearances in eight NCAA Tournaments, two National Invitational Tournaments (NIT) and one CBI Tournament.
Gonzaga, on the other hand, has been selected for the NCAA Tournament every year since the 1999-2000 season. Wow!
While the Zags current streak is considerably shorter than North Carolina's record 27 appearances from 1975 to 2001, it stands as one of the most impressive accomplishments for any Division 1 school, let alone a mid-major program.
More props for the Zags!
It is one thing to be selected for the NCAA Tournament; it is another to make some noise by knocking off your opponents and making a deep run.
There's no actual definition of a deep run, but getting to the Sweet 16 is a mark of distinction.
To make it to the Sweet 16, a team has to win two games, which is no small task in March.
Since the 2000 NCAA Tournament, Butler has made two Sweet 16 appearances (2003, 2007), and made it to the NCAA Championship game in back-to-back seasons (2010, 2011) under current head coach Brad Stevens.
No other mid-major team in the modern era of the tournament has come close to pulling that off.
Gonzaga, has made four trips to the Sweet 16 under Mark Few (2000, 2001, 2006 and 2009) over that same time period.
Butler gets the nod here!
While Butler has jumped up into the national spotlight more recently with its consecutive trips to the National Championship game and even by knocking off No. 1 Indiana this season, my hat is tipped to Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs for their extended success.
They are presently the most successful mid-major program in college basketball.