They stand out like beacons of light in the NCAA Sweet 16.
Gonzaga, Butler and Xavier. Fast becoming old faithfuls.
You don’t consider Gonzaga a mid-major any more, not after 19 tournament appearances since 1999, with multiple wins on eight occasions.
Nor should you doubt Butler, even if you can’t explain how the Bulldogs do it (runners-up in 2010 and 2011).
And if you didn’t notice, Xavier has joined March Madness for the 15th time since 2001, twice reaching the Elite Eight.
What do they have in common? A brand? A system? A culture? Ah, there’s the word.
Culture: human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. In basketball, it thrives on continuity. Turnover tears at it.
You heard Lovie Smith, the third UI football head coach in a year, speak to the football culture.
He recognized Illini fans and indifferent students as falling into a losing attitude. How can a conference football record (now 10-39 since 2011) be viewed any differently?
Developing an identity
And so it is with basketball where the sixth UI coach in 22 years must revive a divided fan base, win over the state’s high school coaches and gain support of former Illini players who feel disenfranchised … namely, a culture that is waning but possessing the fans, financial backing and available talent for a quick turnaround.
Brad Underwood addressed it in a variety…