When the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University received at-large bids to the NCAA men's basketball tournament in March, it was the end of a long road of reflection and adversity for each school since the infamous Crosstown Shootout brawl on Dec. 10.

From that 23-point Xavier win on, the teams' fortunes went in opposite directions "” UC went up after starting the season down, and XU went down after starting the season up.

A UC recap: Preseason ranked No. 22, the Bearcats were 5-3 after the loss to Xavier, suffering embarrassing losses to Presbyterian and Marshall before falling to their arch rival. After the Shootout, the Bearcats went 19-7, beating a nation-best seven ranked teams on their way to a Big East Tournament runner-up finish.

An XU recap: The Muskies were unbeaten and ranked No. 8 in the nation before beating UC. They went on to lose five of their next six and 12 of their final 25 games before finally showing the pre-brawl form by reaching the Atlantic 10 Tournament final and salvaging what is one of the school's most disappointing seasons (relative to such lofty expectations) with an NCAA Tourney bid.

Why did one rise above the adversity and the other crumble? There are many reasons, of course. Coaching, both Xs and Os and managing players' emotional states. Mental toughness of players. Administrative leadership, which was lacking on both sides (the suspensions to players at both schools were universally panned as too light). The cumulative constitutions of everyone involved.

For UC, coach Mick Cronin deserves a lot of credit for righting the ship. He delivered one of the most memorable speeches in the history of Cincinnati sports immediately after the brawl, calling out his players for their actions and speaking passionately about responsibility, sports and society, the university's mission, education in general and how each fits with the other.

He forced the UC culprits, including Yancy Gates, the worst offender in the brawl having landed a punch that dropped Kenny Frease, to face the fire and apologize at a tearful press conference. Then he got to work remolding his team, which played inspired the rest of the way, and he now has them in the Big Dance for the second straight time after rebuilding the program from scratch six years ago. And Gates played perhaps the best basketball of his career in the Big East Tournament, certainly a changed man on the court.

Regardless of the who's-more-to-blame game for the brawl itself, Xavier's immediate response wasn't nearly as determined or strong. Xavier coach Chris Mack called players Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons "” the Muskies' two main brawl instigators "” "warriors" after the game. Not the best choice of words or the most forceful of reactions. Maybe the gravity of the situation was lost on Mack in only his third season as a head coach (soon after the brawl he was profusely and proactively apologetic and seemed to "get it"). Maybe the gravity of the ramifications on his team's psyche was lost on him. Maybe the school simply didn't know how to respond with tough love because it has been such a model program with model kids and had never had to deal with this kind of black eye. Maybe they were collectively just too timid, too weak. Whatever the reason, the Muskies weren't the same, a far cry from the "gangsters" that Holloway proclaimed them to be immediately after the brawl. And Mack and the school couldn't figure out how to fix what had been broken.

Achievement demands the highest levels of aptitude, responsibility, integrity, fortitude and perseverance. They're all connected. -