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NCAA tournament Sweet 16 preview: Butler and Wisconsin are steady, like their coaches

Butler’s Brad Stevens versus Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan. Two careers, decades apart, steeped in basketball tradition and with well-earned reputations for success. A preview of the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs versus number four seed Wisconsin Badgers in a Southeast Regional game tonight at the New Orleans Arena, 9:57 p.m. ET, TBS.

By Christopher HartmanContributor / March 24, 2011

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan watches his players during practice for a Southeast regional semifinal game in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 23, in New Orleans. Wisconsin plays Butler on Thursday.

Patrick Semansky/AP

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Brad Stevens has spent a lifetime in basketball. Born in 1976, he spent his high school years at Indiana’s Zionsville Community High School where he set four school records. Stevens then attended DePauw University where, in addition to excelling on the school’s hoop team, he was an academic All-American in economics.

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He was prepared to spend a career in management at Eli Lilly & Co. until an opportunity came to serve as a volunteer assistant at Butler University in Indianapolis. In 2001, he was offered an assistant coaching position under head coach Todd Lickliter, and in 2004 became their head coach. In his first year, Stevens had 30 wins and has never looked back. Last year, he took the Bulldogs to the NCAA national championship game, where they finished second to Duke University.

Bo Ryan is also a basketball prodigy, having been born outside of Philadelphia in 1947 and starring as a point guard under his father and coach Butch Ryan at Chester High School – where he led the school to a 25-1 record his senior year. He lettered in multiple sports, including basketball, football and baseball. He then matriculated at Wilkes-Barre’s Wilkes University, where he also excelled at point guard.

Ryan's love of the sport inspired him to coach at several schools in Wisconsin, including Dominican College of Racine, Wisconsin-Platteville and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as he amassed an impressive winning percentage. He became head coach of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000 after the retirement of his predecessor, Dick Bennett – a tall order, as Bennett had in the past season brought the Badgers to the Final Four. Ryan has since gathered over 200 wins and has won over 73% of his games overall.

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