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Butler, VCU getting more than wins with this Final Four

Mar 30, 2011, 12:05 PM EDT

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Even if Butler or VCU fail to win the NCAA tournament, a Final Four berth will pay huge dividends for years to come. And not just in money, either.

The Bulldogs and Rams figure to reap rewards in recruiting and exposure while the schools can expect massive rises in admissions, advertising and overall revenue.

Not bad for winning four games in March.

When George Mason made the Final Four in 2006, a study conducted by one of the school’s professors estimated the school  reaped more than $677 million in free media coverage. Also, admissions inquiries rose 350 percent, active alumni increased 25 percent and unique viewers to the official athletic department web site shot up 702 percent.

When Butler played in last year’s Final Four, the school estimated it was worth nearly $450 million to the school in advertising. This year could be down a bit because of VCU’s addition, but it’ll still be massive.

The schools can do even better for themselves by taking advantage of the moment in recruiting, too. They won’t start bringing in five-star players, but they’ll be able to attract interest in guys they wouldn’t have before and able to improve their overall class quality.

“Take a peek at what Butler was able to accomplish this last year. They got Kellen Dunham, who’s potentially a Top 100 player,” said Evan Daniels, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.

“Now, will it help them get into the recruiting of a different type of player? Sure. Butler was right there with Cody Zeller last year. They didn’t get him, but they were right there until the end.”

Zeller, rated as a five-star center, signed with Indiana. It’s unlikely Butler would’ve even tried recruiting him – or that Zeller would’ve considered it – without that Final Four.

“Visibility is the biggest thing,” Daniels said. “It gives them a quicker in with kids. Maybe a kid in Kentucky, maybe he didn’t know VCU. Maybe them making the Final Four is how he found out about the school. Now [coach] Shaka Smart can get on the phone and the kid’ll listen.”

However, Daniels emphasizes that the Butler and VCU coaching staffs won’t spend all their time chasing after big-name prospects. They’ve already reached the Final Four by identifying players they want for their systems, and won’t completely go away from what’s worked.

Consider what George Mason did with its first recruiting class after the ’06 Final Four. It signed one 3-star recruit in Vlad Moldoveanu and three 2-star players. Two, Cam Long and Isaiah Tate, ended up playing key roles on their season’s CAA championship team. (Moldoveanu transferred after his sophomore year to American, where he averaged nearly 20 points a game the last two years.) But all were from the D.C. area, right by the Mason campus.

After that, the Patriots branched off into New York, Florida and other areas, signed three 3-star players and built what’s become a deep, talented team.

So if Butler and VCU don’t return to the Final Four next season, don’t be surprised. But if it happens in two or three years from now, that’s where the Final Four will have paid off.

Again.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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