The Washington Times - April 2, 2011, 03:53PM

HOUSTON — You can examine seeds or win differential or a hundred other statistics, but the starkest perspective on Virginia Commonwealth University’s run to the Final Four comes from money.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics database, VCU’s basketball team accounted for $2,324,111 in expenses. That’s from 2009-10, the most recent year available.

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Compare the expenses for the five teams VCU defeated en route to Reliant Stadium:

Southern California / $4,548,364
Georgetown / $7,393,234
Purdue / $5,171,495
Florida State / $5,756,857
Kansas / $10,984,833

The divide between college basketball’s haves and have-nots is outlined even more clearly among Final Four teams:

Butler / $2,822,892
Kentucky / $11,573,283
UConn / $6,940,903

It’s worth noting that accounting variances can adjust each school’s total. Kentucky, for instance, includes operation costs for Rupp Arena in its total.

Massive as the disparity is, Butler coach Brad Stevens views it as an advantage. You could recruit 13 McDonald’s All-Americans, but only five can play at once.

“We’re not where we are because of dollars spent on practice facilities and those type of things,” Stevens said. “We’re where we are because we have unbelievable people. People are greater resources than any amount of dollars.”

That runs counter to the philosophy of Kentucky’s John Calipari. He preached an arms-race approach for Butler and VCU to transform into perennial March contenders.

“If you want to keep this rolling, you reinvest in practice facilities, you reinvest in all the things that surround the players,” Calipari said. “Academic support, the recruiting budget so they can continue to go out in doing it, scheduling, driving TV games.”

That’s easy to say, of course, when your budget tops $11,000,000.

“At the end of the day,” Stevens said, “It’s all about playing.”